The Story Behind My Fidgeting

I fidget!  It’s one thing I don’t have to work at to be good at.  It comes naturally!

I found out why I fidget when I learned I was living on the autism spectrum.  Repeated movements is a common autism trait.  It can be fidgeting, foot tapping, leg bouncing, finger drumming, hand flapping, nail/finger biting, lip biting, rocking/swaying, etc. This is also sometimes called stimming, or self-stimulating.  Fidgeting is something that folks who aren’t on the spectrum do as well.  It’s just different with me living on the spectrum.

Why do I fidget?  While researching autism, I learned the reason is because I have so many thoughts and feelings crowding my brain that I need to have something I can touch in my hands, or put in my mouth, or occupy a part of my brain so I can more easily concentrate.  If I can keep that part of my brain that is being overwhelmed with all these sensory messages busy and calm, then I can use the remaining part of my brain to think and work.

For instance, I always have gum with me in my purse or in my pocket on the job. When I’m bored or stressed, I reach for a gum stick.  I admit, though, my gum chewing is routine and not necessarily when I just feel like chewing.  My gum chewing habit was one of many revelations as to how autism impacts my everyday life.

Since learning I was living on the spectrum, I have sought additional ways of coping.  One is carrying items to fidget with.  Just recently I found on the ground a toy key on a key ring.  It is now mine.  I keep it in my pocket in the jacket I usually wear to school.  While monitoring the kids, such as on the playground, I’ll take out the key and fidget with it.  I also found a broken set of ear plugs that I will fidget with by unsnarling the wires while watching the kids playing at recess.

I can use everyday items to fidget with.  A rubber band will do the trick by repeatedly stretching it.  When subbing in a P.E. class, I’ll sometimes dribble a basketball or bounce a tennis ball.  At home, I do a lot of jogging in place.  I get exercise and stimulation at the same time.  For me, even jogging is “soothing” repetitive movement.

Fidgeting is helpful when I’m bored too.  I’m in a far better state of mind when I am occupied doing something, even if it is not exciting such as sorting laundry.  Sitting quietly, for instance, while listening to a lecture is torture!  I can’t keep my body still and I can’t keep my focus on the speaker.  It helps if I have something to fidget with in my pocket.  It’s either that or biting my nails, something else I’m really good at.




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